Language barrier affecting Brits abroad

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So many changes and yet everything stays the same.

The Football Association appoints a new chief executive Martin Glenn, who immediately suggests that young English players who are not gaining first team football should look to move abroad in search of enriching their talent and life skills.

A sweeping statement that will cure all of our ills.... apparently.  If we look deeper into this throwaway comment though, who would be willing to take gambles on these players consistently overlooked by their own?


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For players to be able to move overseas, there has to be interest. If there is no interest then the move can't happen. Scroll through the most recent more high profile players who have left these shores in search of "enlightening" their skill set, or becoming more tactically entrenched in the game, and it gives grim reading.

Joe Cole, Micah Richards, Ashley Cole in recent years have all unequivocally failed in their attempts to kick start their careers. Various other lesser known players have also tried, and almost to a man, returned within 12-18 months none richer other than in monetary terms for their experiences. Why is this? 

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Mr Glenn cites Dutch players leaving and diversing all over Europe as a template to follow. He is of course omitting one huge oversight here. Language. Or should I say lack of it.

Most Dutch citizens are able to speak more eloquent English than most current patriots from our fine green lands. Immediately, the mental block of not being able to integrate into new societies is lifted somewhat by this one facet.

Countries like Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland are all immediately accessible due to huge similarities in language and dialects, they are seen as leagues that would be easy to adjust into to a Dutch player. Without the ability to understand quickly what fellow team mates are talking about, both tactically and socially, the feeling of being a slight outsider can manifest itself, and an unhappy, unstable mind will only result in one thing. Misfiring performances.

Watching almost identical failings by the England team over the years, at World and European tournaments has then led to so many days and nights of talking and searching for reasons beyond the obvious "lack of technical nous" comment.

Something that I have long thought had to have an effect is our inability to speak or understand different languages. Picture the scene... England 0-0, 25 minutes gone versus any mid-ranked nation. Call it Romania.

The Three Lions are probing, but looking relatively unthreatening, so switch to a 4-3-3 from a 4-4-2 with specific instructions for a player. Within moments, the counterpart on the Romanian side are able to counteract this as at least half of the side speak and understand the instructions given and passed around the English side, meaning they are proactive and not reactive to any situation arising from the change.

Romania then make a change themselves tactically. Nobody on the English side are able to combat this until they are aware of what the change entails, meaning they are always that fraction behind.

Switch Romania for anybody... Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Costa Rica. The result in terms of understanding tactical changes will be the same. Instantaneous.

Revert back to the previous points about our players going overseas and struggling and the one similarity staring back is language. Did any of Richards, Cole, and Cole endeavour to fully integrate via learning the language? The answer is no.

Indeed the only succesful exports in the previous three decades have been players who have wanted to embrace culture change. Mark Hughes, Kevin Keegan, David Platt, Paul Ince, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and to a lesser extent Steve McManaman.

Players such as Des Walker, Paul Gascoigne, Jonathan Woodgate, Ian Rush Michael Owen have all given the impression that their sojourns were always likely to be fleeting rather than career changing/defining. And here lies the problem.

If stellar name players such as the ones listed above have moved and failed, why would a team from mainland Europe take such a gamble on a player, beginning his career, when history shows that most experiments end quickly and unsuccessfully?

Think Gary Charles, Jermaine Pennant, Robbie Keane (Inter), again just to name a few, and the results are the same. Willingness to truly learn and dedicate themselves to change are the recurring theme.

The image in mainland Europe of an English player is the same, no matter the country being asked the question. Too insular, too rigid, too interested in the trappings associated with being a footballer, not interested enough in applying the necessary sacrifices needed to enter that elite band.

Players that are bought to our shores have been wanted by clubs in their native country. Players being shipped out from here in search of "enriching" their footballing education are in effect, surplus to requirements. 

Until as a nation we adapt to the linguistic necessities of the modern world, the need to accept that change is good, that other styles can in fact be better than our own, Mr Glenn's comments will be full of air hotter than the climates that he urges these players to uproot to

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